Pledge to continue working on statewide rules for officer-worn cameras

Raoul, Nekritz secure passage of eavesdropping reformsSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) and State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) secured passage today of a carefully crafted eavesdropping measure that respects reasonable expectations of privacy while allowing people to record conversations that are clearly public, including law enforcement encounters in public places. At the same time, the legislation’s chief sponsors pledged to continue working to allow the use of uniform-mounted cameras by police officers.

“Now that we’ve passed a sensible, constitutional eavesdropping law, we’re going to continue working toward a statewide protocol for the use of officer-worn cameras,” Nekritz said. “Many law enforcement agencies in Illinois have expressed significant interest in using body cameras to increase transparency and protect both officers and the public, but they’re waiting on the legislature to clarify when they can record, how long recordings can be preserved and other key questions.”

On March 20, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the state’s existing eavesdropping law was overbroad, because it all parties to a conversation to consent to its recording – even when the conversation took place in public and could be easily overheard by bystanders.

Raoul’s and Nekritz’s rewrite of the eavesdropping law specifies that someone is only guilty of eavesdropping if he or she surreptitiously records or uses an eavesdropping device to listen in on a private conversation — defined as a conversation that at least one of its participants reasonably considers to be private. It also expands the circumstances under which law enforcement can record a conversation between an undercover officer and a suspect to include not only drug deals but investigations of suspected plots to commit other serious offenses, such as murder, sexual assault and gunrunning.

“Our previous law, which landed honest citizens in prison just for recording an encounter with a police officer on a public sidewalk, didn’t make sense; now, we’ve succeeded in passing legislation that draws a commonsense line between public and private conversations,” Raoul said. “At the same time, recent events have highlighted the benefits of officer-worn cameras for investigating allegations of police misconduct and addressing unacceptable inequities in law enforcement. We must act promptly to free departments to start using these valuable tools.”

Both the House and Senate have now approved the eavesdropping measure, Senate Bill 1342. Next, it will go to the governor to be signed into law.